Mike Rowe Picks Apart the Myth of Dirty Jobs Being Undesirable

by Amy Myers

Like most reality TV stars, Mike Rowe has received his fair share of criticism from his shows like Dirty Jobs and How America Works. And most of the time, according to the celebrity, he doesn’t pay much attention to the remarks. However, when journalist Jake Maynard criticized the people who partake in his scholarship, Rowe felt he had to respond. In an effort to explain his point of view, Rowe posted a version of the article with his own comments.

You can see the full post below.

One of Maynard’s points was that Dirty Jobs tries to show less desirable jobs in a positive light. That way, they would appear more appealing to “middle-class viewers.”

“Rowe’s only allegiance was ostensibly to ‘the shovel’—his outdated synecdoche for labor—and for some middle-class viewers, it probably did achieve its purported goal of dignifying undesirable jobs,” Maynard wrote.

However, to Mike Rowe, the fact that Maynard viewed these jobs as undesirable when against the foundation of the show. Rather than “dignifying undesirable jobs,” Dirty Jobs attempted to show the hardworking and prideful faces behind some of the nation’s most dangerous and filthiest jobs.

“None of the workers we featured on Dirty Jobs would describe their work as ‘undesirable.’ Difficult, dangerous, dirty…sure. But not ‘undesirable.’ That’s your assumption, Jake, and it’s very condescending. The people we profiled took pride in their work. They were not victims; they were gainfully employed Americans.”

Mike Rowe Discusses Low Pay of ‘Unskilled Labor’

Further in Maynard’s article, he reveals that he and his father used to watch Dirty Jobs pretty frequently. His father was actually a factory and construction worker, much like many of the laborers that Mike Rowe featured on his show. However, the journalist didn’t feel that Rowe praised these individuals. Rather, he “seemed to vindicate workers and refute the Republican con that ‘unskilled labor’ deserves low pay, though Rowe now uses that same lie in arguments against the minimum wage.”

In response, Mike Rowe argued that offering a higher wage with time and experience instead acted as an incentive to learn a highly-desired skill in the industry.

“No one I know has argued that unskilled workers ‘deserve’ low pay,” Rowe wrote back. “But everyone I know agrees that success is often synonymous with the mastery of a skill, and that unskilled workers should therefore be encouraged to increase their value in the market by learning a skill that’s in demand. So, it’s not unreasonable to ask if raising the minimum wage to a level that’s competitive with the starting salary of many skilled workers, might discourage more people from learning a skill.”

He continued to raise the question of how higher wages across the board would affect both small and large businesses.

“I worry about the countless small business on tight margins who will simply not hire as many people. I worry about the large companies who will turn to automation, eliminating more and more unskilled jobs,” Rowe said.